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A guide to smart meters

Smart meters are replacing our traditional dialled electricity and gas meters. In a government-led initiative, energy suppliers are required to install these new meters to their customers by the end of 2020 – around 27 million households! 

How do smart meters work?

The new smart meters use a mobile signal to send meter readings to your supplier, without you having to do anything. In addition, the meter wirelessly sends energy usage information to an in-home display. With this real-time information about how much gas and electricity you’re using, it’s hoped that you’ll be able to change your consumption and, as a result, save money.

A guide to smart meters

What are the benefits of having a new smart meter?

  • With real-time information, you’ll know exactly how much energy you’re using. Expressed in pounds and pence, you’ll be able to see what it costs to make a cup of tea or run the dishwasher (just remember all those things that constantly run, such as your fridge, will also be factored in).
  • Armed with this information, you’ll be able to take immediate steps to reduce your consumption – and your bills – if you think something in your home is using up too much energy. As a result, you’ll reduce your emissions and be greener.
  • There’ll be no more knocks on the door to take meter readings, and no more estimated bills.
  • The new smart meters are free to consumers.
  • Prepayment customers will get additional benefits, such as the possibility of new and flexible ways to top-up, the potential to auto top-up, and a balance displayed on their in-home display.
  • It will be easier to switch suppliers in the long run.


Are customers protected during the changeover to smart meters?

The government is guaranteeing certain safeguards during the changeover:

  • Installers must provide energy-efficiency information as part of their visit. That shouldn’t include talking about their products unless they get your permission first.
  • There will be no sales during the engineer’s visit to change your meter.
  • Your data will not be shared with third parties, unless you give consent.
  • If you do choose to share with comparison sites, such as ours, we can let you know if you could save by switching suppliers.
are customers protected during the changeover in energy suppliers

What are the costs of changing to a smart meter?

There’s no direct charge to consumers, as suppliers are legally obliged to roll out the meters. You won’t be expected to pay for your meter and suppliers should save money by cutting overheads for meter readings to cover at least some of the costs.

While there’s nothing to stop the energy companies increasing their prices to offset the extra cost, by comparing your tariff on a more regular basis you can make sure you’re on the most competitive deal. That said, the energy companies will save money too after the roll-out as checking meters will be a thing of the past. Whatever happens though, it’s more important than ever to compare tariffs to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal.

How do I get a smart meter?

You don’t have to worry about how you get a smart meter. At some point, you’ll be contacted by your supplier. Some suppliers have already started the roll out, so you could contact your supplier if you want more information about their timetable and plans. The latest updates are:

  • British Gas has started upgrading eligible customers across Britain. Where meters are more than five metres away from the property (flats in high-rise buildings, for example), any homes where British Gas supplies the gas but not the electricity, or homes with Economy 7, specialist meters or no communications network connectivity can’t be upgraded just yet.
  • EDF is rolling out smart meters to as many of its customers as possible, with the number of potential customers expected to increase later in 2017.
  • E.ON is installing smart meters in its customers’ homes across the UK.
  • First Utility is currently installing smart meters. You can contact them to say you’re interested in having one installed.
  • nPower is installing smart meters in stages. The company will contact you to tell you when it’s ready to replace the meter in your home.
  • OVO is currently installing smart meters and will contact customers when they have the availability to install a meter in their particular area. You can book a slot online, where there is availability.
  • Scottish Power will be in touch with customers when it’s ready to start scheduling installations in their particular area.
  • SSE has started upgrading customers. You can find out online whether you’re able to book an installation appointment.

Can I still switch energy suppliers if I have a smart meter?

Yes, you should be able to switch suppliers if you have a smart meter; those supporting the roll-out state that in the long term, the changeover process should get even easier. Currently, there’s a little administration around final meter readings as you agree the changeover date. With the new smart meters, it will be very easy to see what the final bill is with your old supplier.

However, as we’re currently in the upgrade period, consumers will need to be a little careful. As suppliers are at different stages of the smart meter roll-out process, if you already have a smart meter you’d need to check that your new supplier is able to maintain the service after you switch. There may be a few teething problems at first, but if you switch providers today you’ll have another few months for them to work through this before you’ll be looking to switch again.

So, if you’re keen to save money with a smart meter, you may also want to check out energy deals to see if you could knock a few pennies off your energy bill with a new provider. Why not start comparing today?